Men Fading Badly?

Here’s a good article that offers six explanations  for why “median-income men in America” are “in distress.”  Their incomes are dropping.  Lots of “prime-age men” have been “dropping out of the workforce altogether.”  Maybe most importantly, men have been disappearing from our institutions of higher education.  If our future leaders are to be those who graduate from our colleges in the most serious programs and with the highest levels of achievement, then most of our future leaders will be women.

At my college, which is fairly typical, we've been worried about the “man dearth” for a while now.  We can get filled up pretty easily with solid students, but recruiting men is a challenge.  We just started up intercollegiate football, which did reduce the “gender gap” for next fall.  But everyone knows that that remedy is temporary.

Where are the men who should be in college?  The credential of a college degree, of course, is more important than ever, given the “decline of well-paying manufacturing jobs.”  Everyone talks about picking up flexible skills and competencies outside the formal academic structure, but it’s not like that’s so easy for the ordinary guy to do.  Peter Thiel ain't offering his entreprenurial grants to guys like that.

I’m not talking about my college now:  It’s pretty clear that many or most colleges now have a kind a covert affirmative action for men.  They’re knocking themselves out looking for them, and (perhaps) they’re compromising standards just a bit on their behalf.  But the various schemes just aren’t working that well.

I’m not complaining about having to teach a disproportionate number of women:  While I had a good number of really fine male students this spring, there’s no denying that women, in general, are more mature and have better personal discipline at 18 (or 19 or 22).  They also have much better social or relational skills, and so they are much better at flattering (someone might say playing) me.  Given my self-esteem “issues,” I really appreciate that.

I want to talk about all six causes of the decline of the middle-class man.  The somewhat mysterious epidemic of autism is above my pay grade, but I do see it with my own eyes.  And then there are video games, which really do cause some young men to exhibit another kind of asocial behavior.

Whatever I might want to do (eventually), I’m just going to put forward for your consideration what might be the most controversial cause.

I call your attention to the “MIT study showing the sharp rise in single-parent households hurts boys more than girls.”

The “flight of fathers,” for one thing, creates “identity issues” for young men.  They haven’t been given guidance—or role modeling—about “who I am and what I want to be.”  The result is “achievement levels” suffer.

I would add that fewer young men are either being responsible fathers or thinking of themselves as fathers in the near future.  Surely one powerful incentive for personal achievement is parenthood.  And parenthood isn’t what it should be if the father isn’t present at home and doing his part.

Because most single-parent households are headed up by women, the toll on motherhood just hasn’t been as great.  We might even say that moms seem more noble than ever.  Maybe one powerful incentive for the personal achievement of women these days is the knowledge that they can’t and shouldn’t rely on men.

So it’s very possible to speculate that the achievement level of our men fades as their participation in genuinely responsible relational life fades.   Or at least we can say that the two forms of fading are interdependent.

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
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  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
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It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

Image source: Shashank Sahay/unsplash
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  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
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Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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